Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid

Standard 1.1-6 on Resource Development

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The governing body should assure that the provider engages in resource development and should directly assist in those efforts.


General considerations

Demand for legal assistance for low income communities almost invariably outstrips the resources available to meet the most compelling civil legal needs of those communities. It is essential, therefore, that a provider pursue assertive strategies to expand available financial resources. The governing body has several key roles to play in helping the provider meet its responsibilities for resource development, including implementing supportive policies, engaging in appropriate planning and assuring adequate staffing and resources to support fundraising efforts.

Governing body members should also participate directly in developing and implementing resource development strategies aimed at private, governmental and corporate funding sources. The governing body’s members collectively should have the experience, skills and contacts to be effective in resource development work. The governing body may establish a separate fundraising committee or advisory board to augment its resource development capacity.

Effective resource development is grounded in part on the reputation of the provider as an effective organization. The more stature and credibility a provider has as an institution the more successful it is likely to be in attracting and retaining funding from private organizations, governments and individual donors. The governing body should also assure that the provider’s management complies with all grant and contract requirements so that existing funding is preserved. A reputation for meeting contractual requirements of current funding is one critical component for success in obtaining additional resources.

Governing body responsibilities

Planning. The governing body should adopt a policy that encourages the provider to obtain new resources to support its work. It should assure that the provider's strategic planning includes a component for increasing its financial resources. It should work closely with the chief executive who shares fundamental responsibility with the governing body for resource development. Other staff, particularly senior management, are also likely to be called upon to engage in fundraising efforts in a variety of ways, including helping conceptualize and write grant proposals, working cooperatively with other providers in developing joint proposals and making appropriate contacts with potential funding sources.

The governing body should assure that adequate staff capacity exists to identify potential funding sources that may be available and to pursue them successfully. It should also budget adequate resources to cover expenditures associated with resource development, including items such as the cost of developing materials, travel and purchasing and maintaining audio-visual equipment.. Large providers should consider establishing a dedicated resource development department to work with the governing body, the chief executive and others responsible for fundraising. Smaller providers may want to retain a fundraising consultant to work with staff members who are principally responsible for the provider's fundraising. Very small providers may have to rely on the efforts of a resource development committee of the governing body supported by the chief executive or a fundraising consultant for its fundraising efforts. Consultants who specialize in fundraising may be helpful to providers of any size.

Budgeting. In the budgeting process, the governing body should set a target for program revenue that takes current grants and contracts into account and sets goals for new income to meet the provider's commitments and to respond to the needs of the low income communities it serves. The amount set should be based on a thoughtful assessment of potential funding sources. If the provider is not raising sufficient funds to meet current responsibilities and to respond to newly emerging legal needs in the low income community, the governing body needs to increase efforts to raise additional revenue.

The governing body should be aware of available sources of funds and should, in concert with the provider’s resource development staff, make deliberate choices among potential funding sources and strategies to tap those most likely to produce income to support the provider's work. Many resource development efforts may be undertaken by the provider by itself. Others, such as efforts to obtain funding from a state legislature or from state bar dues check-offs or attorney registration fees, involve working in concert with others in the state or regional delivery system, including other providers and the organized bar. Some fundraising efforts may be undertaken jointly with others, for example, to obtain funds that may be shared among a group of participating providers or to establish a multi-provider project to offer services to the low income community.

There are many factors that affect which strategies are appropriate for a provider. An extended discussion of all potential fundraising strategies and their merits and limitations is beyond the scope of these Standards. The provider should take advantage of the many sources of guidance available to identify resource development opportunities and help choose those appropriate for it to pursue. The provider's resource development staff and key members of the governing body should attend trainings to increase their skill level and knowledge of fundraising opportunities.

Establishing clear responsibilities for members of the governing body and the staff. Many resource development tasks will fall to the staff of the provider. Other responsibilities will be assigned to the governing body or to individual members of the governing body. The provider should clearly delineate staff and board responsibilities for all aspects of its resource development efforts, including:

  • Research on potential funding sources;
  • Development of funding requests and other materials necessary to support the fundraising effort;
  • Recruitment of volunteers to lead, organize and implement fundraising efforts like lawyer fund drives and major gift campaigns;
  • Cultivation and solicitation of the potential sources of funding, including public and private organizations and individual donors;
  • Follow-up with potential donors;
  • Acknowledgement of grants, individual donations and other contributions.

Oversight of the provider's resource development. The governing body should oversee the provider's resource development efforts to assure that it accomplishes its fundraising goals and the resources obtained help the provider to accomplish its mission. Resource development plans should tie fundraising to the provider's strategic plan or to new initiatives consistent with its mission. The resources obtained should not dilute the provider's core capacity by taking on projects that are not related to addressing the most compelling needs of the low income communities it serves. The core capacity can also be diluted if the provider takes on a large number of small projects whose funding does not cover administrative support and other staff costs.

Direct support of resource development by the members of the governing body. Individual members of the governing body should support the resource development efforts of the provider, through direct involvement in fundraising as well as making personal contributions to support the provider's work. The provider should, when seeking new members of the governing body, clearly articulate expectations for participation in resource development. It should recruit members who can assist in the provider's resource development efforts, whether through contacts with potential donors and funders or through active engagement in articulating the needs of the communities the provider serves.

Depending on the provider's resource development plan and strategy, individual members of the governing body may be asked to solicit contributions from associates and friends. Members should be prepared to approach their contacts on behalf of the provider for annual giving campaigns, direct mail contributions, special events such as annual dinners and auctions, major gifts or planned giving. Individual members should also use their contacts in government, corporations, foundations and other potential funding sources to support solicitations of grants and contracts.

The provider should also clearly set forth its expectations that members of the governing body make their own personal financial contributions to the provider to the extent of their capacity. The provider should encourage all members to contribute, even if it is only a nominal contribution from client and community members who cannot afford more. Some foundations and major donors expect a 100 percent giving level from current board members of organizations they fund.

Creation of additional fundraising capacity. The governing body may wish to consider creating a separate committee or fundraising board to assist with resource development. While all members of the governing body are expected to support the resource development effort, some members will be better suited than others to the active pursuit of funds from individual donors, foundations and other public and private sources. A governing body should have a balance between those members who can open doors to potential funding sources and those who have been recruited because of their substantive expertise or their connections with the low income communities served by the provider. A separate fundraising group can supplement the capacity of the governing body by recruiting persons who would be effective in raising resources for a provider, but would not be interested in a policy making role, or might not meet the requirements of major funding sources regarding makeup of the governing body.